When people say stomach flu, they usually mean vomiting and diarrhea. Stomach flu is generally a misnomer used by many people. It is not a medical term. The word which medical fraternity usually prefers to describe this condition is called gastroenteritis. It is an irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestine. The condition can arise from either deranged stomach due to over eating, as some people do it during overnight parties. It can also precipitate after a bacterial or viral infection.
In any way, whatever may be the cause, the symptoms of stomach flu usually are pain in abdomen, bloating, eructation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea etc.
What Causes Stomach Flu?
The reasons for stomach flu or gastroenteritis are broad based. It can be as minor as overeating rich food at a friend’s party to more serious bacterial or viral infection. Let us begin with the minor causes first.
- As described above, eating too much oily and spicy food or overeating can upset your stomach. Soon the patient may find uneasiness in his stomach. The time interval may depend on various factors; such as its quantity and quality.
- Food allergies, use of antibiotics, caffeine and also frequent use of laxatives are all blamed to cause stomach flu.
- More specific reason for stomach flu is viral infection. Exposure to rotavirus, adenovirus, norovirus is the usual cause. Gastroenteritis in children is mainly caused due to rotavirus. The usual mode of its spread is feco-oral route. Eating adulterated food or liquid can give rise to gastroenteritis. Most of the time, unhygienic eating habits, unhygienic way of cooking, eating in crowded places etc can increase the risk many folds.
- Often bacteria are also responsible for spread of gastrointestinal infection. Here too, the mode of spread is similar, it is feco-oral route. Fecal matters which contain several harmful microorganisms may enter into the stomach of a person when he eats adulterated food or if he drinks adulterated fluids. E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Campylobacter are some of the organisms responsible for gastroenteritis.
- Among the parasites, Giardia lambia is responsible for gastroenteritis.
Symptoms Of Stomach Flu
The symptoms of stomach flu may appear within few hours after eating or drinking adulterated food or it can take a day or two for full blown symptoms. The severity of symptoms may also depend on virulence of the organism, when microorganisms are the cause. Generally the most common symptoms begin with:
- Nausea and feeling of bloating of abdomen.
- Vomiting follows in most cases within few hours.
- Cramps in abdomen are the next common symptom.
- Diarrhea follows with the onset of above three symptoms. Patient may complain of frequent loose and watery stools. In severe cases there may be bleeding in stools.
- Sometimes there is low grade fever.
- Increased thirst, weakness, dry tongue, cold and clammy extremities are some of the signs and symptoms of dehydration. Dehydration sets in if patient persistently vomits and has diarrhea.
Home Remedies For Stomach Flu
In most cases stomach flu is a self healing ailment. This means it runs its course and the general condition of the patient improves on its own. However, during this period following steps will help heal the condition at a faster pace.
- When the patient is feeling nauseous and vomits persistently, avoiding food for few hours is effective. During this period, chewing a piece of ice is valuable in curtailing vomiting and nausea.
- Replace the lost fluid by drinking small quantity of lemon juice. It is a mixture of water, lemon juice, sugar and salt. It helps to balance the electrolytes in the body.
- At the same time person should avoid drinking carbonated drinks, caffeinated drinks as it can exacerbate the symptoms.
- Eat bananas, pomegranate, as both contain potassium and magnesium. Both are useful to control the excessive gastric motility in diarrhea.
- Rice water is another useful remedy for stomach flu. Boil rice and drain out rice water. Drink rice water three to four times in a day. Add little honey and cinnamon to it for a better taste.
- Eat yogurt and drink butter milk frequently. Both are good for diarrhea and vomiting.
- Avoid drinking and eating dairy products and spicy food.